BEYOND THE CROSSROADS
There is always a starting point. There is always that one true beginning. There is always a truth at the birthplace of an idea where innovation meets transformation. The Music Room and its owners are absolute proof of this concept, and if you take a minute to read this you will understand why.
Robert Leroy Johnson was born in 1911 and died 27 years later in 1938. Johnson's poorly documented life and death have given rise to much legend and lore that tells the story of an inexperienced musician who was looked at by his peers as a semi-competent harmonica player but an embarrassingly bad guitarist.
In and around 1929 when Johnson (Robert Spencer on the US census) adopted the surname of his natural father, signing himself as Robert Johnson on the certificate of his marriage to sixteen-year-old Virginia Travis in February of that year, tragedy struck shortly thereafter (in April, 1930) when his new bride died during childbirth along with his newborn son.
Johnson was living in Robinsonville, Mississippi around this time and many of the practicing musicians he idolized and longed to work with considered him incompetent, including Son House, a famed blues musician and a contemporary of Johnson, who claimed he was incapable of playing the guitar. That is until Johnson disappeared for a few weeks and returned soon after having literally mastered the guitar — a level of mastery that (to his peers) could only have been of supernatural origin. Johnson’s ability to play the guitar was equated to “a lifetime of practicing and performing.”
This was absolutely inexplicable to the people that knew him. And they all had heard stories of the crossroads.
What happens at the crossroads? One simply makes a choice. Blues artists had long known the term “Faustian pact,” a term that refers to a bargain in which an individual trade in his integrity and soul for personal gain, or essentially selling “what someone is” for what someone wishes to become. In the blues world there was a crossroads in Clarksdale, Mississippi and as the story went, if you were to appear at this particular crossroads at midnight on a certain night, one could strike a “Deal with the Devil.”
And the legend was born to Robert Johnson. When he returned from this trip, some would say if you touched Robert Johnson you could feel the talent running through him, like heat, put there by the Devil on a dark Delta crossroad in exchange for his soul.
However, Johnson's life was so mysterious, historians go back and forth on many conflicting stories, one of which is the town of Rosedale, Mississippi which was immortalized in Robert Johnson's 1937 recording Traveling Riverside Blues (the crossroads at the intersection of highways 1 and 8) which differs from the original story where the crossroads was located at the intersection of highways 49 and 61 in Clarksdale. Also in future versions of the song, the line "I'm goin' down to Rosedale, got my rider by my side" eluded to this pact originating in Rosedale.
Of course there were others before Johnson who paved their own way in the blues world including Leadbelly, Blind Lemon Jefferson and others but Johnson allegedly struck a deal at the crossroads and the result of that deal permeated the world over.
After leaving the crossroads, he was a master of the guitar and the Delta Blues with abilities unmatched at the time. But more than just an amazing story, Robert Johnson paved the way for the sonic tapestries of life we would eventually call rock and roll.
Robert Johnson influenced everyone from Muddy Waters to The Rolling Stones, and shaped the future of rock and roll. We celebrate his life and legacy. “Robert Johnson – the root source for generations of blues and rock and roll musicians and even to the music you hear today.” and “The greatest folk-blues guitar player that ever lived.”
Rock and Roll has influenced every aspect of life, from literature to lifestyles to fashion and language. This is truly Americana at it finest, and even though the term “rock and roll” was not coined until 1954, it was born of the blues with the guitar replacing the piano and saxophone as the lead instrument. All rock roads lead back to Mr. Robert Johnson and his attitude, dress, and showmanship. Those are the roots and the roots still carry into every aspect of our lives whether you are aware of this or not.
By now you may be asking yourself what’s the point of the story?
Putting any “Deals with the Devil” aside, the owners of The Music Room found themselves standing at a convergence, a crossroads of sorts in early 2019. All the owners having musical performance in their blood was certainly a catalyst, so the ideas of each were thrown into a pot having one common thread: making sure fans could have a visceral experience like no other – fans to artists and artists to fans. But where to build such a place and how outside the box could it be? Staying true to the roots was a must. Having talked of building a world class venue with an intimate setting on Cape Cod for quite some time, the roads finally crossed and a decision was made… albeit without the Devil. Still, the devil is in the details, and that is why The Music Room has painstakingly recreated a vision which celebrates the roots of rock and roll while delivering National and International acts of all musical genres.
Paying homage to its bluesy roots, The Music Room is heavy on featuring blues—based artists of all styles. But just like Robert Johnson influenced the direction popular music would take, the owners of The Music Room endeavor to bring all styles and genres of music and art to beautiful Cape Cod. Patrons can expect a wide array of acts, from one—person singer—songwriters to full bands, there will a rotating blend of the finest musicians and artists available for booking. With reverence for the progression, from the earliest blues, to the King, to the Beatles and beyond, The Music Room will continue to offer content to satisfy the most discerning and ardent listening fan. Some choices on the marquee will be obvious, but many others will be outside that "box" and require a spirit of adventure to attend.
Future patrons may find themselves at their own crossroads while visiting Cape Cod in 2020. Do you go out to the same restaurants and venues, or try something new? Something so very different? Something adventurous and alluring? Nobody can really say which way Robert Johnson went after he made it to the crossroads, but he obviously made a choice and became a changed man that altered the course of musical history. The Music Room can’t say for sure what will happen to you as you visit for the first time, but we know it won’t be your last visit. See you soon and remember, we'll always be just beyond those crossroads.